I'll never forget the first time I saw you in that pub. It was 23 March 2003. Having chatted back and forth via email and MSN (remember that?) for a few months and forming a tentative friendship, it was so exciting to learn we actually lived quite close to each other! Remember that you bailed out twice then made a sudden "it's now or never - meet me in 20 minutes" decision? I know that on that night neither of us knew what to expect. We hadn't exchanged photos, had no idea of the age of the other - nothing to go on except a mutual appreciation for each other's posts on an internet forum.
And there you were. All tall, slim and gorgeous in your black jeans and Doc Martens, complete with broody look, you could have walked off the page of a catalogue. I thought you were the most beautiful thing I'd ever clapped eyes on. And I should know, I've clapped a few! And young! So young! Oh cruel, cruel universe.
You were 30. A loner, a stoner and as wary as a wild animal. I was nearly 39, divorced, with a 6-year-old son. We lived in a rented unit as I'd lost my house in my marriage settlement. I thought if I could get you into my bed and keep you there for even a week, it would be worth it. Because of course, neither of us expected in a million years that this would ever be 'a thing'.
And that's how it started. Any time you were at my place was a delightful bonus and when you were not, I didn't give it much thought, so confident was I that this was never going to amount to anything but an occasional 'friends with benefits' arrangement. There was no pressure, no 'where are you? why haven't you called me?'. I had no idea what you were doing when you weren't with me. I didn't care and that went both ways. We both just got on with our own lives. I was also seeing a couple of other guys at the time - I used to refer to you to one of them as "the beautiful boy" and we'd joke about how long I could keep you. All very casual.
|First photo together 2004.|
Note my body language, hanging on!
It would be another three years before you introduced me to your family. You always did like to take things slowly.
So we drifted along, realising how much we enjoyed each other's company. You surprised me constantly with your intelligence and how much you knew about stuff. I rather arrogantly had you pegged as just a pretty face so it was quite a shock to learn that you were both beautiful and smart! Before we knew it, two years had passed. I was no longer seeing anyone else, just you. But we still weren't in a relationship. Oh no!
Then my father died in September 2005 and unexpectedly left me some money. Not quite enough for a deposit on a house but pretty close. And you were eligible for the First Home Owner's Grant. If we pooled our resources we could buy a house. How confronting! This was real stuff and required real thought and, worse, discussion. I think we were both pretty scared. But we're both pragmatists and we realised this might be our only chance to get a house. So we struck a deal for 12 months and that at the end of that time, if we couldn't bear the sight of each other, we'd sell the house, each get back our initial contribution and split any profit 50/50 and walk away with no regrets, each better off than when we started. So we took a deep breath and found a little house. We moved in on Melbourne Cup Weekend 2005. And we're still here.
In that time we've had holidays in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, countless weekends away around Victoria, camping and motel stays, travelled to New Zealand and Malaysia. We're planning a motorcycle tour of North Vietnam next year. You finally got yourself the motorbike you'd always promised yourself and, to everyone's astonishment, at the age of 44 I got my motorbike licence! You taught me to ride offroad in the forests. We hired a Suzuki V-Strom 650 in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2009 and hurtled around all day on it. You loved it so much you bought one when we got back and we've had so many adventures going 2-up on that bike!
You also stepped up to the parenting role of my son in a way I never could have expected. Even though he sees his father regularly, you were the one front and centre day to day in those crucial years. You came with me to Parent/Teacher nights, you taught him (with remarkable patience!) how to ride a bike. You took him camping and we went away together many times. You volunteered as a parent on his Grade 6 camp - I couldn't imagine anything worse but you really wanted to do it and you did. You held me close when I cried inconsolably when I thought I'd lost him in 2011. And you were as relieved and happy as I was when he came back in 2012.
|Launceston 2012. |
Look at that body language!
So here we are in 2013. It has been ten years. Ten freaking years! I know neither of us can quite believe it.
This has been the best relationship of my life. It's lasted longer than my marriage and has been so much better than anything I ever hoped for myself.
You have loved me with an intensity I never expected. You still make me laugh and I still think you're the most beautiful man I've ever seen. We still prefer each other's company to anyone else. My mother still remains baffled as to why you'd want to stay with me (thanks mum!).
As you know, we only have one regret. That I couldn't give you a child. In that area, your being very slow to come to major decisions had a very real cost and by the time you realised you wanted a child, it was too late for me. I told you to leave. Told you to find a young woman and establish a relationship and have your baby. It's the one thing I can't do for you. Yet you have chosen to stay with me. I can't tell you the depth and mixture of feelings that evokes in me. I literally can't. I don't have the words.
I love you so much. Small, inadequate sentence as it is but perhaps in its very simplicity it says all I need it to mean.
I'll be 50 this year. You'll be 41 this year. Wow.
Happy Anniversary, Matt. It's been an unexpected and brilliant ten years. I'm incredibly lucky. Every single day you tell me you love me at least once (just last night: "do I tell you that enough?". Yes. Yes you do. I could never have dared hope to have such a functional, loving relationship. I hope we have many more years together but even if we don't, 2003-2013 belongs to us.
Thank you my darling.
UPDATE: May 2014.
Completely unexpectedly, out of the blue, my partner - the love of my life, left me. There's not much else to say really except that I'm still in shock as I write this and wonder if I will ever fully recover. At the moment I don't know who I am or what my life looks like.
A word of warning to you: don't EVER get smug or complacent. Don't EVER think you've made it in the relationship stakes. Things lurk under the surface, ready to pull you under, even if you're not expecting it. Always be on your guard.